Wireless, Net Glitches Minor on Inauguration Day

Streaming Internet video of the inauguration of President Barack Obama jammed Internet links and news Web sites Tuesday, and wireless carriers reported a deluge of calls, but problems seemed to be minor.

CNN.com/live said it broke its all-time live video streaming traffic record for a single day in just three hours, starting at 6 a.m. Eastern time and setting the record at 9 a.m.

"Traffic is completely through the roof," a spokeswoman said just prior to the swearing-in at noon eastern time, but she provided no figures. Wireless carriers also a reported a record number of cell phone calls during the inaugural ceremony.

One Boston area reporter was unable to obtain video from CBS.com or from CNN.com/live from a home office during the noontime festivities, although staff members at Computerworld's offices in Framingham, Mass. were able to view the entire event from a T-1 connection.

It appeared that going to a Web site early helped, and visitors who connected to CNN's video site just before the swearing-in at noon were sometimes told, "You made it [but] so did everyone else. You have a place in line."

However, even for several users who could not access the CNN.com/live video, a special space for posting comments on Facebook was possible. Other users said Washingtonpost.com had a successful live video feed as did NECN.com via the Boston.com Web site.

A major investment by wireless carriers in the Washington area infrastructure seems to have paid off, although some minor glitches were reported. The carriers had invested millions and prepared for months to boost network capacity around the National Mall, but given the millions in attendance at the inauguration, some delays or dropped calls were inevitable, they said.

One major Internet carrier, Sprint Nextel Inc., showed delays and packet loss for San Francisco users who were trying to reach Washington in the hour before Obama took the oath of office, according to the Internet Health Report run by Keynote Systems Inc. , a mobile and Internet test and measurement company based in San Mateo, Calif.

That problem was corrected just after noon for the swearing-in and Obama's inaugural address, however. The Sprint route from San Francisco to Washington was 100% accessible, even when packet losses and delays were reported, to maintain connections even if performance was degraded, according to Keynote. Keynote's measurements also showed that 99 other links it was monitoring had healthy performance at noon.

A Sprint spokeswoman said the carrier experienced a record number of wireless calls and text messages in the Washington area during the inaugural, with a 211% increase in voice, text and data service traffic from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. She said there may have been delays for some users but "everything was working properly."

She had no details on the San Francisco to Washington delays and packet loss as reported by Keynote.

Independent analyst Jeff Kagan said cell phone usage in the Washington area for today and tomorrow will be at higher than normal levels, but the mad crush of calls from earlier today should be over.

"In situations like this there simply cannot be enough capacity. So if the network is busy when you try your call, then just hang up and try again. As soon as someone else hangs up another call can be taken," Kagan said in an e-mail. "Bottom line, the networks were jammed, but calls did go through. It was a success, with a hiccup here and there."

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